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Reader Writer Runner (Victoria, BC)

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Press Here
Press Here
by Herve Tullet
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.43
50 used & new from CDN$ 3.33

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., July 12 2014
This review is from: Press Here (Hardcover)
On the first page of "Press Here," one lonely yellow dot sits in the centre of a blank white pate. Underneath reads the simple instructions: "Press here and turn the page." Do so and an adventure begins; each page invites the reader to press, rub, shake, tilt or blow on the dots and, with each turn, the reader sees the consequences of his/her actions. What happens if you tap the dots? How do you make the dots scatter like marbles and how do you contain them again? When the dots nearly float off the top of the page, Tullet suggests what many readers will already have intuited: "Stand the book up straight / to make those dots drop down again."

Compared to the squawks and flashes of so many battery-operated toys, Tullet's simple but interactive book provides a breath of fresh air that will elicit smiles and enthusiasm from every reader. Better read one-on-one than in a group, "Press Here" provides a taste of technological interactivity, no batteries required.

by Ruth Reichl
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
8 used & new from CDN$ 18.77

2.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., July 9 2014
This review is from: Delicious! (Hardcover)
2.5 stars...

From New West magazine to the LA Times to the NY Times and finally as editor in chief of Gourmet, Ruth Reichl has reigned as the world's best food writer for more than four decades. Her three memoirs add up to a fascinating autobiography that balances youthful innocence, an honest reverence for great chefs and a playful willingness to mock the pretensions of haute cuisine. Unfortunately, with her first novel, "Delicious!", she proves that her talent lies firmly and uniquely in non-fiction.

In an interview with Ann Patchett, Reichl insists that she "bent over backwards" to make her fiction debut non autobiographical. Hard to believe when her protagonist, Billie Breslin, finds herself out of a job after her employer, Delicious! magazine, decides to shut its doors. Gourmet in thin disguise, anyone? But, to back up, Billie discovered as a young girl that she possessed an "extraordinary palate," enabling her to identify the ingredients in any dish. When she leaves her family in California and heads to New York (a la Reichl herself), she lands a plum job at Delicious! after cooking for the magazine's editor, Jake Newberry. For reasons not specified until well into the novel, Billie has a phobia about cooking: "I don't cook," she says with finality. Not exactly an asset for an employee of a food magazine.

An intact Federal mansion of historical importance houses the offices of Delicious! wherein lies a cast of cliched characters: Maggie, the hard-hearted executive food editor, Diana, the friendly on-staff cook who becomes Billie’s mentor, Sammy, the gay, worldly-wise and kind travel writer and “Young Arthur” Pickwick who belongs to the family of the magazine's owners, one which suspiciously mirrors the Newhouses of Conde Nast. Beyond the characters, the plot itself reads as a contrived tale of sentimentality. Once the magazine folds, Billie stays on in the empty mansion answering queries from readers about the “Delicious! Guarantee” — “Your money back if the recipe doesn’t work”.

Alone in the mansion, Billie chances upon a long exchange of letters between a girl from Ohio named Lulu Swan and the young James Beard. Eventually, Billie becomes so taken with Lulu that she sets off in the slender hope of finding her. Thus begins one of the novel's disjointed subplots, the other two being Billie's attachment to Sal Fontanari and his wife, who run an Italian cheese shop in Little Italy, and the mystery of Billie’s older sister, a beauty who, Billie asserts, “had star power even when we were children."

“Delicious!” certainly has its amiable moments and Reichl sets a heartfelt tone throughout. But such a skilled and versatile writer comes across as amateurish in her attempt to branch out into a new genre.

8 9 10
8 9 10
by Guido van Genechten
Edition: Board book
Price: CDN$ 12.76
21 used & new from CDN$ 7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., July 7 2014
This review is from: 8 9 10 (Board book)
This cute, 18-page board book asks preschoolers both to count and to find animals with certain characteristics. On a page filled with ladybugs, readers pick out those with four spots and those with five. On one featuring dogs, kids have to find the one wagging his tail. Each page also houses one animal carrying or wearing something in preparation for going to the beach; children can point them out as they turn the pages, then see them all playing at the beach at the end of the book.

"8 9 10" provides a simple but sweet way to practice counting to 10. The spot-the-difference element works on cognitive development, specifically sorting and language skills.

What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night
What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night
by John Brockman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.43
51 used & new from CDN$ 6.58

3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., July 7 2014
Every year, founder, John Brockman, poses a thought provoking question to an array of intellectuals, scientists and academics, then publishes the results. Past queries have included, "how is the Internet changing the way you think?" and "what will change everything?" This year, Brockman wondered, "what should we be worried about?" His newest book compiles the answers, which range from the concrete and immediate to the nebulous and unclear.

Scientist Nicholas G. Carr worries that our constant use of "instant" gadgets will make us impatient in our off-line lives. Astronomer Seth Shostak fears that "malevolent extraterrestrial beings” will be drawn to Earth by transmissions sent to other star systems. Journalist and cancer survivor Xeni Jardin frets about how we still have no cure, no better methods of treatment, and no clear sense of causes or prevention of the disease.

"What Should We Be Worried About?" lacks neither detail nor variety but each of the short essays falls into one of two categories: the fascinating or the eminently skimmable. Indeed, some responses bring up grand questions of existence and read too abstractly, at least for a general audience. Psychologist Susan Blackmore argues that we're losing "our role in this world," whatever that means. Managing director of Digital Science, Timo Hannay, delves into the mystery of consciousness, asking whether we live alone in the universe as “fleeting specks of awareness” or whether sentience surrounds us. Apparently, both possibilities lay grounds for worry.

At 500 pages, Brockman's collection provides more fodder for anxiety than the average reader can stomach. Besides, in the end, perhaps all this worry proves pointless. Journalist Virginia Heffernan asserts that “we have nothing to worry about but worry itself...mindful acceptance of present reality” is everything. In that case, the greatest danger lies in going down the rabbit hole of concern, exactly where this book inevitably leads.

Miracles Now: 108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow, and Finding Your True Purpose
Miracles Now: 108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow, and Finding Your True Purpose
by Gabrielle Bernstein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.64
27 used & new from CDN$ 15.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., July 4 2014
I would not ordinarily feel drawn to a book entitled "Miracles Now"; I can both appreciate the religious importance of miracles and understand what might drive a person to believe in them but I remain skeptical that they ever truly occur. The subtitle, however, captured my interest and ultimately sums up the book's content: "108 Life-Changing Tools for Less Stress, More Flow and Finding Your True Purpose."

Gabrielle Bernstein describes quick and simple ways of tackling a variety of common mental difficulties, from stress and insomnia to job worries, stage fright and learning when to say "no." In her first section, she gives readers a powerful mantra: "Happiness is a choice I make." Subsequently, she expands on this premise and offers ways to surrender obsession, release irrationality and respond with peace. Each brief but satisfying chapter contains a clear few paragraphs describing quick and easy techniques like short meditations, breathing exercises and positive affirmations.

"Miracles Now" also keeps social media junkies in mind. Each section ends with a 140-character summary (perfect for tweeting) and Bernstein even gives advice to those harassed by unpleasant Facebook posts: “Forgive and delete”. Reading Bernstein's book may not result in world peace of a cure for cancer but it does prove that miracles can start small, with a deep breath, a smile and a touch of optimism.

Year of No Sugar: A Memoir
Year of No Sugar: A Memoir
by Eve O. Schaub
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.99
33 used & new from CDN$ 6.39

2.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., June 29 2014
2.5 Stars...

In this latest selection from the "my year of doing something outlandish" genre, Vermont writer Eve Schaub tells how she became convinced of sugar's toxicity after watching Robert Lustig's famous lecture. She decided to swear off added fructose in all its forms for a year and to take her husband and two daughters along for the ride.

Certainly, reasons to curb dietary sugar abound: it can pack on the pounds (especially in potable forms), cause diabetes and heart disease and skew the body's hunger and fulness cues. Though healthy people have eaten sugar in moderation for decades, moderation does not make for an interesting memoir. Consequently, Shaub becomes obsessed with eliminating trace quantities of fructose from her diet and turns "Year of No Sugar" into an eating disorder manual. She cuts out salad dressing, crackers and deli meats, frets over using lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and ultimately drives herself into social isolation.

Schaub's project, then, becomes a fanatical exercise in self-control. But when she exhibits symptoms of the very serious eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa (from which I personally suffer), she merely jokes that she has a "Little Control Freak" on her shoulder. Apparently, hyper-controlling one's food should not cause alarm. Apparently, eliminating fructose will solve every conceivable health problem. At the same time, though, Schaub devises ways to sweeten foods without breaking her resolution including using recipes teeming with brown rice syrup and dextrose. Do these sweeteners really promote better health?

"Year of No Sugar" makes the salient point that sugar lurks in practically all packaged foods; consumers can easily turn a blind eye to its ubiquity. But framing her experiment as an escape from the "opium den" buys into the myth that eliminating a single ingredient will make you healthy and happy. Shaub displays her addiction to the purported cure, not to the "poison" itself.

Help! We Need a Title!
Help! We Need a Title!
by Herve Tullet
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 12.26
39 used & new from CDN$ 11.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., June 29 2014
This review is from: Help! We Need a Title! (Hardcover)
Underneath the thick black cover of a sketchbook lies adeptly controlled chaos within which prolific French artist Herve Tullet provides creative inspiration. In the opening pages, Tullet introduces a cast of unfinished characters, utterly confused by the reader's sudden presence. The pink pig, red monster and amorphous stick figure (among others) wonder how to entertain their "very sweet" audience. After producing a banal tropical sunset for background, they agree that they need a story and, thus, an author.

Enter: strange, photographed head-shots of Tullet, which unfortunately signal the end of the book's charming mixed-media tumult. Under pressure from his unruly drawings, the author supplies a sappy and lengthy (8 page) skit that provokes negative critique from said drawings and begs the reader to turn off the light.

Though "Help! We Need a Title" lets 4-8 year-olds interact with the metafiction, it fails to live up to the high standards achieved by Tullet's other books.

The Geography of Pluto
The Geography of Pluto
by Christopher DiRaddo
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.62
14 used & new from CDN$ 9.35

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., June 27 2014
This review is from: The Geography of Pluto (Paperback)
3.5 stars...

Ostensibly, "The Geography of Pluto" tells Will Ambrose's story, both in the present and in memories. Taking readers through Will's coming of age and his coming out, it reads much like a long get-to-know-you brunch conversation: casual, intense and sometimes rambling. Christopher DiRaddo focuses on Will's relationships to depict an ultimately likeable narrator, the most important one being with his (single) mother. Will's fickle but loyal best friend Angie and his ex-boyfriend Max certainly cause him anguish but, though each of these kinships has its struggle and its climax, they teach Will that only the most important relationships endure.

Though "The Geography of Pluto" explores profound themes such as the clash between romantic love and familial love, the courage of straying from expectations and the fragility of the human body, the book's setting emerges as its most important thread. Anyone who has visited or lived in Montreal will appreciate the presence of the vibrant city's personality; the markets, the mountain, Dawson College, the gay village and even the quirks of engaging in "frenglish" conversations feature just as prominently as the human characters.

In trying to amass so many ideas and emotions, DiRaddo sometimes pens clumsy dialogue and mechanical scenes. He also tends to make too-grand declarations about life and death and sweeping proclamations about "what it's like for gay men." When Will questions his own actions, his uncertainty seems forced and unnecessary; readers can detect Will's emotions without having them spelled out. However, throughout the book, you'll root for Will. You'll sympathize with his heartbreak, feel irritated by his relationship gaffes and respect his closeness to his mother. And, of course, you'll want to explore his dear Montreal, the city for which his love never wanes.

Almost An Animal Alphabet
Almost An Animal Alphabet
by Katie Viggers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 14.56
26 used & new from CDN$ 11.88

4.0 out of 5 stars Story Time Again..., June 25 2014
No matter how comprehensive, no animal alphabet book can include all the world's creatures. Perhaps that explains Katie Viggers's intriguing title, "Almost an Animal Alphabet." Or perhaps Viggers refers to the fact that each letter does not represent an animal; N is for "night time" and U is for "underground." Regardless, both this whimsical book and it's title encourage the reader to use his/her imagination. In its open-ended style, the book names an animal to match each letter and then illustrates several different species of that animal. The "O is for Owl" page, for example, features six types of owl but how many more exist? And in which parts of the world do these different owls live? Pages like the aforementioned "N is for night time" further spark the imagination. How many nocturnal animals can you name?

"Almost an Animal Alphabet" also delights the senses. It has a lovely, suede-smooth surface and the illustrations look as if the artist has painted them on wood with a soft yet harmonized colour palette. Finally, one highlight remains at the end of the book: a map on the back cover that identifies the habitats of all animals mentioned. Truly a unique take on the often hackneyed alphabet book.

The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue
The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue
by David Sax
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.77
6 used & new from CDN$ 12.27

4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts..., June 23 2014
3.5 Stars...

Breathe a sigh of relief: David Sax makes it clear that his new book aims to examine the rise and decline of food trends while neither creating guilt nor encouraging a "healthier" lifestyle. His refreshing approach of discussing food without diet counselling allows the reader to appreciate the author's careful, detailed study of why industry fads blossom and wane.

Sax divides "The Tastemakers" into three parts, the first of which describes the four types of trends: cultural (sex appeal), agricultural, chef-driven and health-driven. Here, Sax’s personal interactions with each participant in this sequence offer fascinating insider information and lend credibility to his analysis. Part II studies the most intriguing aspect of food trends: how they become part of our lives. Sax challenges the notion that fads catch on randomly by peering into the food company board room, in which corporate honchos meticulously consider data collected on consumer habits before developing a new product. Devious marketing ploys admit certain foods to the "cool club," guaranteeing that we devour them as if they're going out of style. Finally, part III discusses the demise of food trends such as fondue. Sax also explores political issues, delving into food truck wars and municipal legislation.

Unfortunately, "The Tastemakers" suffers from occasional gender stereotypes. A male grain grower comes across as as a warrior who paddles a canoe into alligator-infested waters to hand-harvest rice whereas Sax describes a female goat-herder and artisanal caramel maker as “a slender, freckly redhead with J. Crew catalog looks,” who is lucky enough to sport an “equally hunky husband.” Nearly twice as many men as women have quotes in the book and Sax obnoxiously overdoes the adjective "ballsy" when referring to courage.

Sax sometimes jumps too fast and too far between subjects and his collection of anecdotes interspersed with opinion ultimately leaves the reader hungry for something deeper. But, in fairness, targeting the massive, intricately connected world of food trends in a journalistically reported book is no mean feat. "The Tastemakers" provides plenty of dinner-party facts and tells the compelling truth that the human diet consists of both what the body needs and what society tells us the body needs.

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